Presidents Race

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Tom, George, Teddy, and Abe, a few days after their live debut at RFK Stadium in 2006.

The Presidents Race (known as the GEICO Presidents Race for sponsorship reasons) is a promotional event held at every Washington Nationals home game at Nationals Park, and previously at RFK Stadium, in the middle of the fourth inning of every game. If a game goes to a fourth extra inning (i.e., the 13th inning), a second race is held in the middle of that inning.

The Presidents Race has featured likenesses of seven former Presidents of the United States, four of whom are found on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt, plus William Howard Taft (introduced in 2013 and retired after the 2016 season), Calvin Coolidge (who raced for a single season in 2015) and Herbert Hoover (who raced for a single season in 2016). Their nicknames are "George," "Abe," "Tom," "Teddy," "Bill," "Calvin," and "Herbie." The Presidents are typically dressed in Nationals jerseys numbered according to their term as president (1 for George, 3 for Tom, 16 for Abe, 26 for Teddy, 27 for Bill, 30 for Cal, and 31 for Herbie) and topped with giant foam caricature heads. On Sundays, they usually wear period costumes, often referred to as their "Sunday Best" outfits.

In 2017, the Presidents Race at Nationals Park returned to its format of 2006 through 2012, with only the original four Racing Presidents (George, Abe, Tom, and Teddy) competing. Prior to the 2017 season, the Nationals announced that Cal, Herbie, and Bill all had retired permanently to Florida in conjunction with the February 2017 opening of the Nationals′ new spring training facility at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches – renamed The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in February 2018[1] – in West Palm Beach, Florida. During spring training in 2017, the three retired Presidents began their own series of Presidents Races in the fourth inning of Nationals spring training games in West Palm Beach.[2]

Famously, Teddy failed to win a single race for almost seven seasons, even when given head starts or other advantages. Teddy won for the first time on Wednesday afternoon game, October 3, 2012, during the first game played after the Nationals reached the postseason for the first time. Fans and bystanders alike were shocked that his first win was during a weekday afternoon game. Several seasons of success followed for Teddy, but he returned to his winless ways during the 2017 season. However, Teddy did win the second race of the 2018 season.

Race standings[edit]

Presidents Race Results, 2006-2017[3][4]
Season #1
George
Washington
#3
Thomas
Jefferson
#16
Abraham
Lincoln
#26
Theodore
Roosevelt
#27
William
Howard Taft
#30
Calvin
Coolidge
#31
Herbert
Hoover
Notes
2006 7 15 14 0 First year at RFK stadium; race debuts July 21
2007 33 26 22 0 Last year at RFK Stadium
2008 18 14 49 0 First year at Nationals Park
2009 22 21 40 0
2010 29 28 30 0
2011 23 30 30 0 Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth wins one race
2012 30 27 29 4 Nationals′ first postseason appearance;
Teddy Roosevelt wins race for first time on October 3
2013 25 13 23 11 11 Taft′s first season; he debuts on Opening Day on April 1
2014 10 11 25 29 12 Nationals′ second postseason appearance.
2015 17 5 21 15 14 12 Coolidge′s addition announced in mid-season;
he debuts July 3 in his only season
2016 16 17 18 23 9 10 Screech the Bald Eagle wins one race;
Hoover debuts on April 10 in his only season;
Taft′s last season;
Nationals′ third postseason appearance
2017 29 29 25 0 Screech the Bald Eagle wins one race;
Nationals′ fourth postseason appearance;
Teddy Roosevelt winless for first time since 2011
Overall 259 236 326 82 46 12 10

The origin of the race[edit]

The predecessor to the Presidents Race was the PNC Dollar Derby, an animated cartoon displayed on the giant video board during the 2005 inaugural season at RFK Stadium. Sponsored by PNC Bank, the Dollar Derby cartoons depicted a car race between three US historical figures whose faces appear on U.S. paper currency: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander Hamilton. Each represented a section in the stadium (orange, red, and yellow seats), during the races, one competitor would generally have some early mishap such as spinning out, leaving the other two competitors to race to the end. Each racer won a fair number of times.

For the 2006 season, the Dollar Derby was replaced by the Presidents Race, a cartoon depicting four, not three, presidents racing through Washington, D.C., and avoiding obstacles such as traffic cones, open manholes, and closed streets.

Live-action racing[edit]

After the team's purchase by Ted Lerner during the 2006 season, the new owner announced changes for the stadium and a "grand re-opening" of RFK Stadium after the All-Star Break. Among the changes: the Presidents' Race became a live event first held on July 21, 2006.[5]

The race still began with an animation on the video board: the four cartoon presidents dashed through Washington, D.C., and headed towards RFK Stadium. Immediately after disappearing from the screen, the costumed live-action presidents emerged from the right field corner as 10-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) men with large caricature foam heads. The presidents bolted out from right field and down the first base line, past the visitors' dugout, and to the finish line by home plate.

Beginning in the 2007 season, the animated lead-in was replaced with a taped video of the caricature-headed presidents running from the White House, around various Washington landmarks, and heading towards RFK Stadium. The 2007 season's promotions included giveaways of 7.5-inch (19-centimeter) bobbleheads of the four Racing Presidents.

In 2008, the Presidents Race became a highlighted attraction of the team's new stadium, Nationals Park. Images of George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy are featured on stadium signage and at the team store/gift shop, which is now named "Rushmores." The racing presidents themselves began greeting visitors before games at the main entrance, and posing for photos in a "Kids Zone" after the Presidents Race and through the end of each game. The race itself was also lengthened, with an extended introduction and a longer distance, usually running from center field clockwise by the first base foul pole and down the foul line towards a finish line near the Nationals' dugout.[6]

In 2009, a new food concession was opened at Nationals Park called Teddy's Barbeque, featuring images of Theodore Roosevelt and a signature food item—a 13-inch (33-centimeter) beef short rib called the "Rough Rider".[7]

Teddy's losing streak[edit]

The running joke of the Presidents Race had been Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt's inability to win a race. The reasons for Teddy's failures had consistently varied, ranging from tripping, confusion, being attacked by a man dressed as a shark, attempting to tweet while racing and subsequently falling over, to striking up conversations with fans and forgetting to run; in 2006, he was also disqualified for cheating when he drove a golf cart past his competitors, and for emerging from the visitors' dugout instead of running the length of the first base line.

Teddy Roosevelt displays a campaign rally sign at Nationals Park in 2008.

Teddy's shutout—and his antics—continued through the 2007 season as he was disqualified on Opening Day for zip-lining into the infield from the top of the stadium. He was also disqualified in September for riding in a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle, the 2007 season's promotional Presidential bobbleheads generated anticipation that Teddy would see his first victory. George, Tom, and Abe each won the race on their respective days, and they were escorted by the "Secret Service" to guarantee the runaway victories. Teddy's bobblehead giveaway was September 1, and 42,000 fans showed up to watch as Teddy was carried in on a throne while the "Secret Service" held back the other three racers. Halfway home, Teddy asked to be lowered and was dropped; while his escort was helping him to his feet, the other racers got around the blockade and George won the race by a couple of feet.[8]

On September 23, 2007, in the final game at RFK Stadium, Teddy was heavily anticipated to finally win. When the race started, the Nationals bullpen held George, Tom, and Abe back to help Teddy to victory, but Teddy never showed up; the video board showed him at the unfinished Nationals Park, apparently confused to find no one else there.

With the opening of Nationals Park in 2008 came increased fanfare for the Presidents Race and a growing fan fervor for Teddy including a fan-generated "Let Teddy Win" campaign tied to the presidential election season.

Teddy's losing streak was extended with the stadium's inaugural game, as he ran off-course across the outfield and was distracted by members of the opposing team;[9] in subsequent races, Teddy was disqualified for cutting the outfield corner and for riding a motor scooter. The theme of sabotage was also introduced in 2008 as Teddy was tackled or tripped just short of the finish line on several occasions by visitors from the stands, including costumed bananas, panthers, and mascots from other teams.[10]

Teddy mania reached a fever pitch during a June 2008 series against the Baltimore Orioles, part of the annual Beltway Series between the teams, when Teddy was tripped short of the finish line by the Orioles mascot "The Bird." On June 28, 2008, the Presidents Race was suspended for a day as Teddy won a one-on-one "grudge match" race against The Bird, giving Teddy his first victory. However, it was announced that the "unsanctioned" race would not be recognized in the standings by "The Presidents Racing Association of America."[11] The next day, Teddy refused to race with the other presidents, choosing to help the Nationals grounds crew instead.[12] The interleague rivalry between Teddy and the Orioles Bird extended into 2009, when the mascots tackled each other in back-to-back games at Nationals Park.[13]

On Sunday, July 26, 2009, during a game against the San Diego Padres, Teddy used a motor scooter to pass the field and cross the finish line first. However, after the judges' consideration, Teddy was disqualified from the race, and remained winless.[14]

Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln of the Presidents Race running the Great Pierogi Race at PNC Park during a Pirates-Nationals game on April 23, 2011.

From July 31 to August 3, 2009, the Racing Presidents appeared at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in the Great Pierogi Race, during the first night's relay race, Potato Pete TKO-ed Teddy with a flying tackle.[15] The following night Teddy ran into the wall after leading the race and lost.

On September 8, 2009, Teddy appeared to have won his first race, but was disqualified for recruiting an extra mascot onto the field to interfere with the other presidents.[16]

On April 23, 2011, Teddy and Abe both raced two Racing Pierogis (Jalapeño Hannah and Cheese Chester) in the Great Pierogi Race at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, during a Pirates-Nationals game, despite an early head start before the race officially began, Teddy lost to Hannah.[17]

During a game against the Atlanta Braves on September 24, 2011, Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth and relief pitchers in the Nationals′ bullpen interfered with the Presidents Race in attempt to block the other Presidents and allow Teddy to win. Teddy failed to take advantage of their efforts, falling down repeatedly instead of heading for the finish line, and Werth finally broke the tape at the finish line himself to become the only player ever to win a Presidents Race, after the game, Werth expressed frustration with Teddy′s losing streak, saying, "What’s the poor guy got to do to get a win?...A great American president. Just a great American, period." He explained his and the bullpen′s interference in the race by saying, "To me, the Presidents Race and Teddy Roosevelt are very symbolic of where this [the Nationals] organization goes...It needs to be addressed, it needs to be answered."[18]

On July 4, 2012, ESPN's SportsNation featured the President Race at the conclusion of their "101 Celebration Fails" episode. George fell at the beginning of the race, and Teddy had tried numerous antics to defeat the others, including throwing a rack of basketballs in front of Abe. After gaining a massive lead, he stopped just short of the finish line to celebrate; while Teddy was kneeling, or Tebowing, George approached from behind in a SportsNation van and clubbed Teddy with a baseball bat, once again dealing Teddy a loss.

On August 17, 2012, the 499th Presidents Race was held during the Discovery Channel's annual "Shark Week". Teddy appeared wearing shark teeth and a makeshift dorsal fin. Starting the race in last position, Teddy was assisted by another man in a shark suit who systematically tackled each of the other presidents, allowing Teddy to pass. Just as it looked like Teddy was going to win, Abe (the first one tackled) passed him and crossed the finish line.[19]

On July 23, 2013, in another race against the Racing Pierogis, Teddy was tackled and beaten up by all four pierogis.

Teddy wins[edit]

On October 3, 2012, the final day of the 2012 regular season, Teddy finally won his first race, breaking a 525-race losing streak with help from a poorly designed Phillie Phanatic, the victory marked the first time the Nationals earned a playoff appearance since moving to Washington in 2005 and the first playoff appearance by a Washington, D.C., MLB team, since the Washington Senators played in the 1933 World Series.[20] The Rough Rider then won the next three races, all in the 2012 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, the ninth-inning collapse by the Nats in the fifth and final game ended the season.

On August 15, 2014, at Nationals Park, Teddy avenged his five-year humiliation in Pittsburgh by tackling Potato Pete near the finish line.[citation needed] On September 28 of that same year, Teddy, with a little help from The Penguins of Madagascar, won his first season-long race title.

Return to losing[edit]

During the April 16, 2017 race, the mascots tackled every other President except for Teddy. When it appeared he was going to win, the Easter Bunny leaped from the stands and tackled him,[21] this would set the tone for the rest of the year, as Teddy returned to his previous role as the lovable loser. Following a win by George on October 1, Teddy finished the regular season winless for the seventh time, but the first since 2011.[22] However, he did win an unofficial race during the Congressional Baseball Game.

New entries[edit]

It was announced in a blog on the website of The Washington Post on January 25, 2013, that a likeness of William Howard Taft ("Bill" for short), the 27th President of the United States, would be added to the roster of entries for the 2013 season, making him the first new entry - and the fifth overall - in the race.[23] Bill debuted at the NatsFest event on January 26, 2013.[24][25] Bill made his debut in the race on Opening Day on April 1, 2013, in which Bill pushed Abe down, leaving him, George, and Teddy to continue until Bill pushed Teddy to the wall in foul territory in right field – but then Teddy tripped Bill, leaving George to win the race, on May 11, 2013, Bill won his first race when he and Teddy were left racing after the other three presidents were taken down. The next day, in a dizzy bat race on May 12, 2013, Teddy won his first race since the 2012 National League Division Series as he and George were approached the finish line and Teddy finished first after George lost his bat. Bill and Teddy each won 11 races during the 2013 season.

In 2015, the Nationals entered a three-year marketing partnership with the White House Historical Association in which the president honored in the Association′s annual Christmas ornament each year also would appear that season as a Racing President at Nationals Park. In accordance with the agreement, the Nationals announced midway through the 2015 season that a likeness of Calvin Coolidge ("Cal" for short), the 30th President of the United States, would become the sixth Racing President, as well as the first one to join the race while an MLB season was in progress. Cal debuted on July 3, 2015, the eve of his 143rd birthday, during a game against the San Francisco Giants; in his first race, Cal appeared behind the other five racing presidents and knocked down Abe and then Teddy near the finish line for his first win. Cal was retired after the 2015 season and replaced by Herbert Hoover ("Herbie" for short), the subject of the Association′s 2016 Christmas ornament, in the second game of the 2016 season. Herbie made his debut during an April 10, 2016, game against the Miami Marlins, and, like Cal in his first race, emerged victorious.

Retirements and spring training races[edit]

During the 2016-2017 offseason, the Nationals announced that Cal, Herbie, and Bill had retired permanently to Florida, where they would compete against one another in races held during the fourth inning of Nationals spring training games at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, which opened in February 2017 and was renamed FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in February 2018.[1] As a result of Taft′s retirement and the Nationals′ decision not to add Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a Racing President in 2017, the Presidents Race at Nationals Park reverted in 2017 to its original format of 2006 through 2012, with competition between George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy, while a new era of spring training Presidents Races between Cal, Herbie, and Bill began at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.[2]

Local celebrities[edit]

The Nationals' Racing Presidents have become established as fixtures in the Washington, D.C. social scene. The presidents have made numerous appearances at the White House, including the annual Easter Egg Roll,[26] and the Independence Day fireworks. In 2008, Racing President Teddy Roosevelt entered and finished D.C.'s Marine Corps Marathon in full costume.[27] The presidents have also appeared at several presidential inaugural balls and were in the January 20, 2009, inaugural parade for President Barack Obama.[28]

Awards[edit]

The Presidents Race has also received acclaim throughout the sports promotions industry. Some awards the Presidents have garnered:

  • 2007 – Winner: Gameops.com Best of 2007 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
  • 2008 – Honorable Mention: Gameops.com Best of 2008 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
  • 2009 – Winner: IDEA Conference Golden Matrix Award "Best Interactive Feature"
  • 2009 – Winner: Washington, DC St. Patrick's Day Parade "Most Humorous Float"
  • 2009 – Winner: Gameops.com Best of 2009 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
  • 2010 – Honorable Mention: Gameops.com Best of 2010 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
  • 2012 – Winner: Gameops.com Best of 2012 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
  • 2013 – Winner: IDEA Conference Golden Matrix Award "Best Interactive Feature"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Doris, Tony, "New first name for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches: Fitteam," February 16, 2018, 3:35 p.m. EST.
  2. ^ a b Allen, Scott, "Presidents’ Race at Nats Park will be smaller with Taft’s retirement to Florida," washingtonpost.com, February 24, 2017.
  3. ^ letteddywin.com Presidents Race Facts
  4. ^ letteddywin.com Presidents Race Standings
  5. ^ LetTeddyWin.com, "Presidents Race Facts"
  6. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2008-03-30), Changes to the presidents race at Nationals Park
  7. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-06-19), Teddy’s BBQ opens tonight at Nationals Park
  8. ^ LetTeddyWin.com, 2007 Presidents Race Videos
  9. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2008-03-31), The Season Begins with a Bang at Nationals Park
  10. ^ LetTeddyWin.com, 2008 Presidents Race Videos
  11. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2008-06-28), Teddy Wins!
  12. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2008-06-29), Teddy skips presidents race to assist grounds crew
  13. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-05-24), Teddy knocks the 'O' out of the Orioles Bird
  14. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-07-27), Teddy crosses first, is disqualified for riding motor scooter”
  15. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-08-02), Teddy Roosevelt leveled by racing pierogie at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park”
  16. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-09-08), Teddy is disqualified for “Unauthorized Use of a Feline”
  17. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2011-04-24), Pierogies show up racing presidents in Pittsburgh
  18. ^ Steinberg, Dan, "Jayson Werth crosses presidents race finish line," washingtonpost.com, April 15, 2012.
  19. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2012-08-17), Slo-mo Video: Teddy nearly pulls off a win in presidents race #499
  20. ^ Fenno, Nathan (October 3, 2012). "Teddy finally wins Nationals Presidents Race, ending 538-race drought". Washington Times. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  21. ^ Werner, Barry (April 17, 2017). "Easter Bunny demolishes Teddy Roosevelt in Presidents' race at Nationals' game". Foxsports.com. Retrieved April 17, 2017. 
  22. ^ Racing president Teddy Roosevelt completes his seventh winless season
  23. ^ Steinburg, Daqn (January 25, 2013). "Nats Will Name William Howard Taft New Racing President". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  24. ^ http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130126&content_id=41193078
  25. ^ http://nationals.com/racingpresidents
  26. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-04-14), Racing presidents attend White House easter egg roll before opening day game
  27. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2008-10-26), Teddy Roosevelt finishes the Marine Corps Marathon!
  28. ^ LetTeddyWin.com (2009-01-22), Racing president Abe Lincoln muscles in on Obama’s inauguration

External links[edit]